The Truth About Green IT

There are plenty of green products available on the market, but what’s the real return on green IT investment ?

Implementing green technologies isn’t just about saving the planet and cutting costs, it makes good business sense especially in the current economic climate.

In the last couple of years, several computing solutions have emerged as naturals in the quest to go green. Chief among these is server virtualization, but there are a host of tried-and-true methods for getting data centres and desktops to use less energy and reduce the demands of technology on resources: Turning off unused equipment, power management features in operating systems and computer hardware, and data deduplication are just some tools IT managers can leverage to reduce energy waste.

However, with all of these green solutions at hand, there are two problems that face IT managers in the quest for a more energy-efficient computing environment. The first is measuring what is in fact “green,” and the second is actually implementing nuts-and-bolts features that make power conservation possible.

The current economic period will clearly place a premium on efficient operations, including IT. It is a happy coincidence, then, that green IT may conserve the most important business resource there is: cold, hard cash. Combined with a wave of capacity concerns about powering and cooling existing and new data centres, thought momentum is with forward-looking enterprises. However, IT managers are going to find that nimble retooling of existing infrastructure will be nearly impossible unless management systems are already in place that enable low-touch changes to system configurations.

Further, some changes to manage and control data centre power require breaking one of the cardinal rules of IT: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

For example, during my recent test of Raritan’s Dominion PX intelligent power distribution unit, I had to power down several components of eWEEK Labs’ VMware ESX implementation to connect the systems to the power outlets in the Raritan device. Needless to say, a collection of eight systems—including servers, network gear and storage equipment—that had been working fine didn’t work so well after the power cycle.

This is no fault of the Raritan device, but rather illustrated the weakness of my run book and management techniques in the lab. The important lesson is that rerigging equipment racks to take advantage of available power measurement, monitoring and control systems requires rigorously tested IT procedures.

However, it is necessary to implement power-measuring equipment to get a baseline understanding of your current energy usage. It turns out that the most important method for measuring the greenness of your IT operation grows from knowing the current computational cost per watt.